IT HAS been a fairytale comeback for Mission Queensland Firebirds defender Clare McMeniman, returning to elite-level netball after a two-year hiatus.
McMeniman was a student at Warwick West State School before attending John Paul College in Brisbane for her secondary education. On Sunday, she plays in her second ANZ Championship final in Melbourne.
She was a monthly Daily News/Warwick Credit Union Junior Sports Star of the Month when in Warwick.
Only winning the grand final again could top off an amazing 2014 season return for vice-captain McMeniman, who previously won an ANZ Championship with her beloved Firebirds in 2011.
"I could only have hoped but I did not assume we would be in the grand final, it is exciting and the best thing that could happen for us as a team and we are really, really pumped for Sunday," she said.
Combining with captain and friend Laura Geitz, who is originally from Allora, the two have become a formidable defensive pairing for the Firebirds.
Geitz describes McMeniman as the work-horse of the team, who returned from retirement due to some unfinished business with her netball career.
"To play in another grand final with Clare is going to be amazing," Geitz said.
"I love playing with Clare, her passion and determination is just second to none."
"It is funny, Clare on the court is such an intense personality and does not smile too much but you know when she is out there she gives it her all.
"So I am looking forward to stepping out with her on court again on Sunday, putting on a strong performance and grabbing that premiership, which she obviously came back in search of."
Both McMeniman and Geitz know the Vixens are going to be tough opposition but both agree they have the talent and the belief to take out a second title together.
"We need to work a lot better as a unit, we were definitely outplayed in the attack end last week against the Vixens," McMeniman said.
"We need to cut down and force them a bit higher and force them to the top of the circle as that ball was getting into the circle a little bit too easily.
"It will be a fantastic match and I'm so excited to be in another grand final."
Geitz said the Firebirds are confident but have to remember there is not a lot of finals experience amongst the group so she and McMeniman will use their experience to keep the younger girls as calm as possible.
"There is an air of confidence and we are yet to play our best netball," Geitz said.
"In saying that we will be drilling into everyone at training that we need to play much better netball to take out the grand final on Sunday.
"This is a wonderful time but the team that is composed and calm wins games."